Things I said on 2011-03-27

When millions of people beat millions of dollars

Every time I hear someone saying that something can’t be done, it’s too hard, there are interests and forces against you that are too big, I remember this David vs. Goliath photo and the months, years of fight that lead to a big victory. And the lessons I learned on how to talk to high-level politicians and super-lawyers,  how to influence people and turn enemies into allies.

For years, the free software movement rallied European citizens and small and medium businesses to reject a very bad directive on patentability of ‘computer implemented inventions’ (in other words, software) that would have damaged society in the long run. We managed to coordinate a strategy between different organizations, like FFII and FSFE. The movement succeeded in building a vast coalition of supporters against the directive, across the political spectrum. We isolated European giants SAP and Nokia, left alone to support a directive that appeared to be written by US-based multinationals.

This picture taken the day of the vote in 2005 shows  the different size of the budget: the big guns had a full boat floating in the canal next to the European Parliament in Strasbourg and a huge banner. Our movement had canoes and small flags.

They had millions, we were millions. And we won.

Software Patents Kill Innovation

Microsoft cannot be trusted

My friend Gianugo Rabellino has a tough job trying to help Microsoft clean up its image of anti-open source company. The best comment I read about its latest attack on Android and Linux (the ebook reader is just an excuse, I agree with Steve J. Vaughan-Nichols) using the equivalent of nuclear weapons (software patents) is on TechCrunch:

Microsoft still has many talented people doing great things. Kinect and even Windows Phone the product, not the strategy jump to mind. But the suits and lawyers are burying all of that under 700 metric tons of bullshit

Read  Vivek Wadhwa’s Why We Need To Abolish Software Patents if you’re still not convinced that this is madness.

Things I said on 2011-03-20

Things I said on 2011-03-13

Things I said on 2011-03-06

Why FLOSS projects may gain from Community Managers

A discussion on identi.ca started by Bradley Kuhn when he said

I am becoming increasingly convinced that if your #FLOSS project needs a “Community Manager” or similar position, it’s in trouble.

The conversation that followed on identi.ca  doesn’t seem to consider two things: FLOSS projects are often the effort of for-profit (or simply revenue seeking, as you prefer) organizations and that there is lots of interesting projects out there. Putting aside the objectives to raise funds, the competition between FLOSS projects is what’s interesting most. As a community manager I have learned that projects compete for attention of contributing developers. Attention is rare and to find it is a full time job.

A good community manager focuses on getting the attention from developers, so they chose to contribute to your project instead of going to another one. While others in the organization can focus on developing software, finding sources of revenue, assuring quality and the rest of the stuff, the community manager must focus on grabbing attention.

I think that when FLOSS projects outgrow the basement where they start they need somebody inside the group that can look outside, to users and contributors.